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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
As a first year beekeeper employing the eight frame medium approach I have relied heavily on Michael Bushs’ advice. In my area of Michigan I expect to be able to winter with four medium eight frame boxes. I planned on a target weight of 130 pounds but all my hives swarm at just over 105. If I put a fifth super on they fill it and don’t swarm but if I remove it and don’t replace it, there they go. Sunday I had one and caught it. So my question is this; is my target too high or do I really need to winter with five boxes? Will they pack the boxes heavier later when they quit raising new bees? I also have a question about how to deal with the swarm but that is for another thread.
The goldenrod started this week, what a year.
 

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Mike,
I know of a beekeeper who wants 200# per hive to overwinter in Illinois.
Are you sure you're 4 box hive only weighs 105#? (hive scale?) Are all boxes full of drawn comb?
 

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Is that 130 lbs including all woodenware, I run 8 frame mediums and they are 3 high and when I put a game scale and lift one side its just a touch over 60 lbs everyone says I can double this weight so that would be box and all right at 120. The bees still have room to pack honey away. Does that sound about on par, or does my weight seem off ?
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I have four hives (five with the swarm) all from packages. Three have swarmed one twice. I weigh three to four times a week. Two hives with five boxes are at 135 pounds. The hive that just swarmed is four boxes and swarmed at just over 105. That hive is the only one I left at four boxes because I wanted to see what they would max out at, now I know. Based on what Mike says I will plan on wintering with five boxes per hive, why not. I can see what is left in the spring and next year have a better idea of what I need. I am still curious as to how heavy four eight frame mediums should be I am sure they can be heavier than 105 without cramping the queen. It is amazing how full my hives are after four swarms and all from packages two started in May and two in June. Oh, all the frames are drawn out, in fact I had seven drawn frames to offer my swarm and that is probably why they stayed. Another thread to come on how I should handle them to get them through winter, they are in a Brushy Mountain double box five frame medium nuc.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Is that 130 lbs including all woodenware, I run 8 frame mediums and they are 3 high and when I put a game scale and lift one side its just a touch over 60 lbs everyone says I can double this weight so that would be box and all right at 120. The bees still have room to pack honey away. Does that sound about on par, or does my weight seem off ?
Harley, yes the weight includes the woodware, my woodware on a five box hive is 60 pounds, a four box hive is 50 pounds. I weigh every three to four days and weigh both front and back and add them together. I use a game scale I bought from Cabelas, it is the $49 digital model. This will be my first year to winter bees, I expect to learn a lot and am focused on weight because first year keepers don't know by looking whether or not a cluster is large, normal or small. We have nothing in our experience to compare it too, so I am going to winter at a specific weight and spring will educate me as to how well we did. I assume there are many people on this site that are eight frame medium keepers and I want to know their experiences. I realize only a few actually weigh hives and because of that I have posted my methods on other threads to let them know how easy it can be. I have learned a lot from just reading threads on this forum and truly appreciate the posters.
 

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Harley, yes the weight includes the woodware, my woodware on a five box hive is 60 pounds, a four box hive is 50 pounds. I weigh every three to four days and weigh both front and back and add them together. I use a game scale I bought from Cabelas, it is the $49 digital model. This will be my first year to winter bees, I expect to learn a lot and am focused on weight because first year keepers don't know by looking whether or not a cluster is large, normal or small. We have nothing in our experience to compare it too, so I am going to winter at a specific weight and spring will educate me as to how well we did. I assume there are many people on this site that are eight frame medium keepers and I want to know their experiences. I realize only a few actually weigh hives and because of that I have posted my methods on other threads to let them know how easy it can be. I have learned a lot from just reading threads on this forum and truly appreciate the posters.
I'm in the same boat...first year trying to estimate weight and cluster size. I haven't seen your weighing method. Could you point in the right direction? I've been thinking of getting a game scale and weighing...but do you lift the boxes as a unit? If so...yikes...I'm not sure I can. I tend to max out around 50 lbs, thanks to a bad shoulder and an old back injury suffered in my younger years.
 

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Some would build a lever (2nd degree?, don't remember my 6th grade science) to do the work for them of lifting the scale up which is hooked under the hive.

http://www.abuzzaboutbees.com/IHPA/TheBuzz/Images/Glen_Stanley_Hive_Scale_09_1_w.jpg

Glen Stanley, Iowa state apiarist emeritus, and his hive scale. Push down on the handle to lift up the game scale hooked to the hive, measure both sides and you've got an idea of total weight.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Is that 130 lbs including all woodenware, I run 8 frame mediums and they are 3 high and when I put a game scale and lift one side its just a touch over 60 lbs everyone says I can double this weight so that would be box and all right at 120. The bees still have room to pack honey away. Does that sound about on par, or does my weight seem off ?
Harley, I never answered your question. I use a digital game scale also but I always lift both sides of the hive and the difference is sometimes 15 lbs or more. The two sides are never the same. One hive this week was 102 an 119 it is six high.
 

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I like the way Michael Palmer weighs hives. He tips the hive sideways, slides a bathroom scale on a piece of plywood under the other edge, and tips the hive up until it balances on the corner. He's in upper Vermont and needs 150-160 lb.
 

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If I put a fifth super on they fill it and don’t swarm
Yes, don't let them swarm. The only way you can control the size of a hive is by splitting or robbing the nest. Put your scale away and keep up with the hive. At the END of the season is when you consolidate the hive for winter. I would rather see a 5 box hive go through winter with the bottom box not used than crunch it down to 4 and have them swarm in the fall.
My experience with a 5 box hive (too much honey) through winter is you will lose some harvest. If the hive makes it through winter it will be on a mission to reproduce in the spring and you better be ready to keep up with it. Typically the bees eat through the center of the boxes leaving honey behind and in the spring they are in the top box. So if you had an extra box of honey on the hive in the fall it is not accessible to you in the spring. If that is OK with you then go ahead.
 

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You know - however many boxes you stack up if you have any doubts mt camp sugar will keep them from starving. 5 pounds of sugar and a spare super - and you can stop worrying about that.
 

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however many boxes you stack up if you have any doubts mt camp sugar will keep them from starving. 5 pounds of sugar and a spare super.
I don't know anyone in my area that does mt camp. In colder regions it may not be so successful. Maybe M. Palmer could chime in on how well it works in VT. Accessibility could be one problem.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 · (Edited)
Keeping bees from swarming is not just about adding boxes...

http://www.bushfarms.com/beesswarmcontrol.htm
M.B., last year was my first year with bees, I had not yet wintered a hive. I began with two May packages and two June packages. My goal has never been honey, I just want healthy hives that survive winter. I caught one of my swarms and entered winter with five hives. All my hives swarmed last year but nevertheless they were all very strong going into fall. The weakest ( August swarm) colony built up sufficiently and made it through the winter. My question should have been stated better, I wanted to know how to acquire my target weight in four boxes. The woodenware weight for a four box eight frame with foundation is about 50 lbs. To reach the desired 130 requires 80 lbs of bees, wax and honey. Only 16 frames are needed for the honey leaving 16 frames for brood related activity. The hives all swarmed at around 105 lbs, I don’t mind losing the bees as long as the colony survives, I wanted to understand why I could not get them to 130 lbs first. By October 20 three colonies were at or above the 130 in four boxes I suspect it is because they shutdown brooding and concentrated on stores. Also your link is helpful in understanding, thank you.

My hives are booming again this year, all the survivors are over 200 lbs two captured swarms have already filled three boxes each. I do not want more bees and will not attempt to prevent or capture any more swarms this year, I am out of equipment. Three colonies is all I really want, I now have seven, so splits and nucs are out of the question. I did not expect this level of growth but feel compelled to nurture the bees. My flow here appears to be too strong to prevent the inevitable swarms that I will experience and the goldenrod which is awesome is yet to come.
 

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Three colonies is all I really want,
I swear this is the hardest thing to accomplish, staying at three. I have come to the conclusion that you need 4 hives worth of equipment to stay at three.

With mediums this will be easier to do. Find someone in your area that wants bees and split the brood nest in half. If you can find the queen you can decide whether you want to keep her or let her go with the split. At first you could just give the split away or trade it for new box and frames. This will keep your equipment at the same level and give you fresh frames so you don't end up with all drawn comb and nothing for the wax bees to do. That could be part of your swarming issue.
You do not want 7 hives if you are trying to stay at 3. That is most certainly an equipment problem that will result in swarming. I have all I can do to keep my hives from being 7 boxes high in the fall.
 

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I don't know anyone in my area that does mt camp.
You don't know Mark B. (sqkcrk) in Brasher Falls, NY? :scratch: :s
Funny, I could have sworn that you have posted about visiting his apiary. :rolleyes:

I have been feeding dry sugar for years, well before it got known amongst beesource members as The Mountain Camp Method. In my opinion the it is best to keep the space above the top bars as shallow as possible. A 1 1/2" frame the size of the top of a super is all you need.

Take off the covers, apply the rim, lay a sheet of newspaper across the top bars in the rim and pour 5 lbs of sugar onto the paper. Moisture generated by the bees and the environment will dampen the paper and the sugar. The bees will chew through the paper and eat the sugar, which is now somewhat hardened by the moisture. Call that The Squeak Creek Method if you want. lol :)
 

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MichiganMike
I have never run 8 frame equipment always 10 so I can't give perfect apples to apples comparison. A long long time ago we use to have random hives sitting on scales just for fun and watched the weight increase with the flows. I don't remember much about the details though and its been nearly 30-35 years ago.

Michael Bush's advice about how much room you need depends on the traits of your bees/cluster size is spot on. I've normally wintered in these options: one 10 frame deep, two 10 frame deeps or a deep with 6 5/8. If they are packed with plenty of honey come fall and they are conservative type bees life is good in either of the options. however, if they are not so conservative, my general thought is that 2 ten frame deeps is not really enough in the long run or at least that has been my experience. i'm going to make a generalized sweeping statement----you should be able to winter in this general location without issue using 3 eight frame mediums IF you have the bees that are inclined to do that but IF you have hives that are what we will call "italian" those 3 mediums probably won't cut.

part two. in the summer here, a normal production colony of 2 ten frame double deeps should have 4-6 honey supers on it in the long run. that super count will of course be dictated by weather but just keep that in mind as one reference point. and as a disclaimer, my preference is for more supers versus less as i'd prefer to have them storing honey instead of wasting it building burr comb and then wasting even more storing honey in that burr. so since you arent aiming for honey production i can see you needing a smaller box count than what i consider normal when trying to maximize honey production. but my thought is that when you are trying to run a colony, even one that is pretty conservative, with only 4 boxes with 8 frames you really have them condensed into less than space than what my history would indicate they need and as such they head for the trees. long term if you want to maintain a limited # of colonies that produce limited honey but can also winter here you might want to consider getting very picky about the stock you are keeping. it isnt real hard to find that type of stock compared to finding high production in combination with good wintering ability.

you should be right on the edge of the basswood bloom and the white clover is just getting started good. you have those two potential flows to get thru before you have to deal with the fall flows.

do you know if the buell family still keeps bees in milford area? Ray was the biggest beekeeper in the state many many years ago.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
BBB, I am not trying to limit the size of my colonies to four boxes. The beesource reading I did last year lead me to believe that four was likely the minimum number for me to winter a Michigan colony. Remember I was new. I also thought that 60 lbs of honey or a total weight of at least 130 lbs was baseline. I was curious why my hives swarmed from four boxes at 105. I entered winter with three hives at four boxes two at 136 and one at 125, one hive 192 with five boxes and a three box August swarm at 92. They all made it through. My mistake this year was catching swarms, that is really why I am out of boxes. This year I am certainly going into winter with more than enough stores. My survivor hives are five and six high now, one was at seven and I had so much trouble handling it I took it off and extracted as much as I could from the hive. I am 70 and not real big, six is a struggle and seven is crazy. I am out of boxes so will extract to provide space. Thanks for the interesting response.

Sorry, I do not know the Buell family but there is not a Ray in the phone book.
 

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I entered winter with three hives at four boxes two at 136 and one at 125, one hive 192 with five boxes and a three box August swarm at 92. They all made it through.
Those are great variables for overwintering. And kudos to you for the great success. The problem I see is what BBB has mentioned, in the summer season the hive should get much larger then for overwintering unless you pull honey off during the season and extract it to get the empty boxes that you need.
 
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